Category Archives: editorial

Brother, Sister, Partner – Going into Business with a Sibling

Let’s face it, going to work can be a pain. Open plan offices are too noisy and impersonal, small offices are too claustrophobic, no one ever clears up in the kitchen. The vending machine steels money. Bosses are unreasonable and bullying. The pay is inadequate, the days too long, weekends too short and holidays hardly ever come. Well, now I’m self-employed – I decide when to make a cup of coffee, and if the kitchen’s a mess – it’s because I haven’t tidied up after breakfast. I can drink the coffee in peace and quiet, if I choose, have a little nap afterwards (Please don’t draw this last comment to the attention of my partner, she still has to go out to work) 

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HMRC class me as a ‘sole-trader’, but of course photographing and filming are very social, interactive and deeply personal – you have to look in people’s eyes. My trade is capturing a person’s soul! But once back in the office, and making business decisions, I can feel very alone, it’s all down to me! So that’s when I go to business networking. It was at one of these meetings that I met Stephen Taylor. His business is called Taylored Room Solutions, designing and fitting bedrooms, kitchens and offices. It’s a partnership between Stephen and his sister, Julia. So they’re never alone making decisions. Which made me curious; how can a business relationship with a sibling, transcend childhood resentments, from parental favouritism to broken toys?

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Councillor Brenda Fraser is the Mayor of Merton performed the official opening

I sat down with Stephen and Julia in their New Malden office and showroom, upstairs at Big Yellow Storage, only recently officially opened by the Mayor. The good news is that they’re really busy. As I promised not to take up too much of their time they insisted it was not a problem, I could have as long as I liked. Here’s a clue to making any partnership work – be a nice person and find a partner who’s just as nice. First credit then must go to Mum and Dad Taylor. “Oh our parents think we’re mad.” Julia tells me, I imagine most parents would worry if two of their kids gave up good jobs to go into business. “But at the beginning, we needed some money and they stepped up with that.” Then she turns to Stephen – “Oh, I forgot to tell you, mum definitely want us to do her kitchen and no mates rates.” “Oh good, double the price then.”

There seems to be a relaxed ease between them that only siblings could have – a brother or sister can know someone’s sensitivities better than anyone. Know how to avoid them, or apply coercive pressure! I ask Stephen how they’d come to give up their jobs and set up in business together. “She bullied me!” Which Julia denies, explaining that she’d been unhappy in her last job and thinking of setting up on her own. At the same time she was wondering if Stephen would be interested. It took Julia’s husband Mark to start the conversation between the two of them. “We talked and talked.” Stephen says. “And then we talked some more. I don’t think either of our partners saw us for months.” I ask if they’d known whether they’d be able to work together. ”We were averagely close.” A guarded answer from Stephen. “We always got on well, I always had a soft spot for Stephen.” Julia drops to a whisper, perhaps so that neither of the other two siblings will hear. Julia’s the oldest, Stephen the youngest of the four and they both say they wouldn’t do this with either of the other two. As Stephen got into his teenage, Julia had already left home for college, so they missed some of the ‘difficult’ years. Instead, Stephen had someone he could talk to, out of the home, but in the family. “Julia was living in a bedsit, I’d go and stay with her. We’d go to the cinema or ice skating, that’s where our friendship developed.”

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Their office is not big, Stephen sits with his back to the window, Julia’s has the window to her side and her back to Stephen. “There was a natural fit.” She says. “I did furniture design and worked for Sharps Bedrooms, Dream Doors, Kitchen Magic.” “She did a degree in flat-pack.” Her brother interjects. She visits the clients, does the design work and the costing, while Stephen runs the office, the financial management and marketing. “When we started, we had a list showing the split of responsibilities.” He explains. “The thing is, we have 100% trust, neither of us is going to run off with the bank balance.” Julia reinforces the trust and adds, “We try to have a weekly meeting when we both say what we’re doing, but it’s often cancelled because we’re busy.” “The trouble is, our meetings are never 10 minutes.” Stephen says with a smile. “Because we talk and talk, and then we talk some more and then we digress on to something else. But, as a small business, we ought to be able to react really quickly, but we don’t because we talk it through forever. We need to able to say, ‘ I made this decision because…’ And then, if it’s wrong learn from it.”

One of the disadvantages of being of business with someone you like must be a temptation to just spend time enjoying each others company. But what happens when they fall out? Did the Taylored Room Solutions business plan have a section headed ‘Dispute Resolution’? “No!” They cry in unison, “When it kicks off, keep away!” Stephen warns. “The first few times we fell out out… oh dear. It was difficult. It was always something minor, I understood something one way, and Julia another.” “We go really quiet, so we know something’s up.” “Then there’s a text or an email from whichever one feels they’re slightly less to blame.”
partner Stephen editorial photographer KingstonSo would they recommend a sibling partnership? Stephen answers first. “Make sure your personalities are compatible, and complementary. This wouldn’t work if we were both creative.” How important has the support of partners at home been? “Daimon (Stephen’s partner) is very supportive, he’s not involved in the business but if he sees a decision is emotional rather than rational, he’ll say so.” Julia makes a similar point, “Mark (her husband) is the same, he doesn’t want to be involved, but it’s great to have him there to bat things off.” “They love us, but they have an outside perspective and can tell us if they think we’re doing something stupid.” Starting a business always involves a sacrifice. 
“Working twice the hours than I was before for far less money, and you can think, what’s the point?” Stephen asks. “But there’s value in this.” Julia says.

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As we finish our talk, Julia goes back to advice they would give. “It does change your relationship. We were brother and sister, but also friends. Going into business has changed that.” From what I’ve seen I’d say it’s added to their relationship, brother, sister, friends… and now partners.

Visit Taylored Room Solutions website.


“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close to Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Shooting Cows for Editorial

I nearly grew up on a farm, so I was delighted to be commissioned to get some editorial photographs of a couple of farmers with their cattle. It was only ‘nearly’ because I lived next to, not on a farm. They had three boys of my age, so that’s where I was for every moment I could manage. Marching across the fields to bring the cows in for milking, feeding the pigs, collecting the eggs from the chickens, digging up potatoes, riding on a trailer behind a tractor, trying to fish with baler twine and a bent nail, then nearly drowning in the pond after co-opting a tin bath as a boat. The appropriately named Bullock boys lived on the best playground you could imagine, and I had no doubt that at some point in the future I would be a farmer. I was wrong about that!

The editorial photographs I was to take were destined for a brochure promoting the high quality provenance of Campbell’s Prime Meat.

It’s my second editorial job for Campbell’s, and an early start from their Linlithgow base. I’m spending the day with Seonaid, the client and Brian from Stoddarts, one of Campbell’s suppliers and a customer of the two farms we’re visiting. The first destination is the wonderfully named ‘Wolfstar Farm’ in Ormiston, to the east of Edinburgh. The Kings are a father and son team who raise Angus cattle. It’s Ross, the younger one I’m to photograph, and the first animal is a big, handsome bull. As I wander around it’s pen taking pictures, it occurs to me that I’m possibly being a little over confident around the beasts. Because I grew up near them doesn’t mean I know anything about them.

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Ross reassures me that this bull is as docile as it seems, but should never to be trusted. They’re so heavy they could easily crush you against a fence or a wall.

Farmers are famously unsentimental about their animals, after all, they’re growing them for slaughter and the plate. 

But I’ve never met a farmer who didn’t care deeply about the welfare of the animals in their care, and not just for economic reasons. Ross knows which of the animals enjoy a tickle under the chin.

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From the damp murk, and soft countryside of Tranent we drove west, almost right across Scotland. Through the spectacularly beautiful Borders, with a coffee stop at Moffat and then into the sunshine that was blessing Dumphries and Galloway, in the south east of Scotland. We met Alex and Scott Henderson, another father and son team, for lunch in the restaurant of a near-by visitor centre. Because I was a disinterested party, it was fascinating to hear the interplay of different perspectives in the conversation between these three links of the Scottish food supply chain. It ranged through market prices, breeds of cattle and the forthcoming EU referendum.

The Henderson’s farm, ‘Carswadda’ is in the truly beautiful, rural landscape of Lochanhead Dumphries and Galloway.

Alex and Scott produce Charolais cattle, sending to market a dozen head each day. Not surprisingly, Carswadda was a clean and tidy operation.

The farms I remembered from my youth were more chaotic, where you had to wear wellies and mind the barbed wire. We played with the hay bales in the barn and on the Fordson tractor abandoned in a corner of the yard for our benefit. I suspect efficiency has put pay to any such romance now.

 

 

 

 

 

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Less a Plane than a Jackson Pollock – Editorial Photography for Pilot Magazine

In my career as a editorial photographer, this has so far been my most ‘Boys Own’ job – spending the day at White Waltham airfield surrounded by aircraft, and in the company of walking-Wikipedia. Philip and Colin, who know about cars and aeroplanes, and two expert ‘detailers’. Sadly, the photography was not to involve taking to the air or driving cars. We were here to watch the ‘detailers’ cleaning a plane, so more ‘Widow Twanky’ than ‘Biggles’.

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Richard, Colin and Dean with dirty Dumbo

Pilot magazine editor, Philip Whiteman had got me there with writer Colin Goodwin. Colin was writing an article how to get your aeroplane clean. The grubby flying machine in need of a good scrub belonged to Colin. ‘Detailing’ was a new concept to me; very thorough, but careful cleaning, usually of classic or performance cars. My car gets a clean once a year if it’s lucky, usually because it’s so dirty I’m having trouble spotting it against the earth, or because there are toadstools growing in the filthy carpet. So Richard Tipper’s business, ‘Perfection Detailers’ operates on an entirely elevated plane. Sorry, plain. It’s not just a quick hose-down, and a rub with a good chamois leather. Because ‘perfection’ is what Richard aims for. A vehicle isn’t done until it’s ready to enter a concours d’elegance, in fact it isn’t done until it’s ready to win it.

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The propeller alone cost nearly £6000, so Colin says he looks after it very carefully!

I’d imagine that to most owners, their light-aircraft is quite precious. The fact that their life is dependent on it is also going to make them quite attentive to its well-being. Well, consider that Colin also built his plane himself, in his garden shed. He must care more than most!

Colin told me the aircraft, which he’s called ‘Dumbo’ is an ‘RV7’, imported in kit form from the US. He declines to tell me how much the whole thing cost, and won’t even estimate the number of hours it took him. “I’m anal, I spend hours cleaning the thing.” He says. “I joke with passers-by that it’s cheaper than actually flying it.”

Richmond editorial photographer-0872 The first thing Richard Tipper, and his assistant Dean do is clean off the oil stains along the plane’s belly, using a volatile oil a lot like WD40. Then the whole thing gets a shampoo, not any old shampoo of course, it’s pH-neutral with no added chemicals. He dries it straight away to avoid watermarks, using a man-made fabric which he knows from experience to be more absorbent than a chamois.

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The real challenge is the build-up of splattered insects on the leading edges of the wings and propeller. “It only takes a few minutes in the summer for the wings to look like a Jackson Pollock.” Is how Colin describes it.

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Colin was pleased to discover the paint was thin, helping keep down the weight

Elbow grease alone isn’t going to shift them, but before Richard sets about it with his powered polisher he test the thickness of the paint. Only 30-40 microns thick, about a third that of a modern car. He also tests the polish to make sure it doesn’t lift any colour.

I learned a lot during my day White Waltham airfield, photography takes you to interesting places, and lets you glance inside other worlds. You can be sure that my car is now…. still waiting to be cleaned.

 

Colin’s article took up 3 double-page spreads in Pilot magazine.

Editorial Photography in a Royal Palace

My second editorial photography job for Hong Kong based business magazine A Plus, was photograping Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman of ‘Accounting for Sustainability’, a charity established by Prince Charles to ‘inspire action to drive a fundamental shift towards resilient business models and a sustainable economy’. The office is in Clarence House, London, a Royal Palace. Understandably, there was considerable security rigmarole to get through, a long non-disclosure agreement to sign and a strict condition that I couldn’t photograph any pictures of the Royal family, or show the garden in any of the pictures. I had a look at the garden, but obviously can’t disclose what I saw….

Jessica was a delight to photograph, a lovely person and very amenable to walking around looking for good locations, and it’s still a thrill to my work in a magazine….

 

Trevor Aston Photography is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London with easy access to and from central London and Surrey.

Laura’s Pet’s Pressies editorial photography

BBC Children’s had a sort of ‘junior Dragon’s Den’ programme, which 9 year old Laura won. Her prize was the opportunity, support and resource to try out her business idea; ‘Pet’s Pressies’. She came to ‘Pets at Home’ in Richmond with her Dad, the BBC sent a TV crew. As well as the the retail space, Pets-at-Home merchandiser lent Claire, one of their experienced merchandiser. Laura was great, she listened to the advice she was given and was very self-assured talking to the customers.